Monthly Archives: October 2015

Keep on Truckin’………Part 4

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Keep on Truckin’………Part 4

In August of 1977 I was living in a mobile home in the northern part of Florida. I was there with my mother and her boyfriend, Frank. My twin brother who started the adventure with us nine months prior was back in our home state of New Jersey. My mother made the trip back with him and I stayed with friends of the family for several weeks until she returned.

Soon after she returned to Florida she tried to kill herself and ended up in a Psych Ward. Mind you I didn’t know she tried to kill herself at the time. I was probably told that mommy needs a break or she is sick and needs to rest. The family friends were probably weary of my company so I landed in an emergency foster home for about 5 days. Nothing horrible happened in the foster home except that I knew this wasn’t normal. My whole life up until that point had not been normal but the emergency foster home made me feel especially isolated and insecure. I was 9 years old and my entire family except for my mother was in New Jersey.

I also wondered why she took my brother back to New Jersey and not both of us. In retrospect I think she was trying to pry herself away from an abusive relationship in what she thought was the safest way. If she left one kid in Florida she could convince Frank that she would come back. If she took both kids he would have been alerted to the fact that the relationship was over and the abuse could have escalated.

Why take my brother and not me? Well being the oldest by a full five minutes, I always acted as his protector. Of course we fought like hell but deep down I would have taken a bullet for my brother and somehow that was known. In fact I would have taken a bullet for him up until I had kids of my own. I was also mentally and emotionally stronger. So I can understand her choice and I am giving her a lot of benefit of the doubt. Any way you slice it….it was a fucked up situation.

A couple weeks after we both got out of our institutional settings, things got nuts. My mother and I were at the mobile home and Frank was out. It was a hot day in Florida typical of August. I was outside playing with a friend. The mobile home had a large window in the front room and I could see my mother motioning my friend and I to move away, so we did. A couple of minutes later a large object came crashing through the window. I told me friend I had to go and went inside to see what was happening.

My mother’s master plan for ending the relationship was to destroy the home. She thought if he sees this level of destruction surely he will let us go. So I helped my mother trash the place. I’m not going to lie it was kind of fun. I threw dishes like they were frisbees. We decorated a framed photograph of Frank with toilet paper and drew a crown on his bald head and renamed him “King Shit”. I threw flour and other food all over the kitchen, we slashed furniture and clothes. We destroyed the place.Featured image

It was all great fun until the cops came. Then I saw my mother get arrested and hand cuffed in front of me. Apparently it was the second time she was arrested since we moved to Florida. I wasn’t present for her first arrest. I was placed in the back of a police car until they figured out what to do with me. My mother was taken off to jail.

To be continued……https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/11/04/keep-on-truckin-part-5/

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Keep on Truckin’……Part 3

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Keep on Truckin’……Part 3

My twin brother and I turned 9 in early June of 1977. I still remember my favorite birthday gift, a pink pair of silky smooth bell bottom pajamas with a ruffle halter top. I did some serious dancing in those jammies to Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke. It was a good song then and it stands the test of time.

We had been living in Florida with our mother and her boyfriend, Frank, for about 10 months. In that time with lived in a hotel, 2 houses and a mobile home. We attended third grade in two different school districts. Did I mention that we were there for about 10 months?

We also spent a fair amount of time on a boat we named Gemini IV and yes we were all Geminis. It was a 40 foot cabin cruiser and I learned how to fish on that boat. I also tried snorkeling and I remember hearing about sponge divers. We ate out a lot, mostly at Red Lobster which was a new experience for us. We even went to Disney World – somewhere I have a photo of me in orange bell bottoms with Holly Hobbie stitched on the leg bottoms. I was also wearing the ever popular mouse ears.

Featured imageIt was a big year for us filled with adventure and we weren’t broke which was a nice change. Prior to Florida we had lived in a boarding house and various apartments and shack houses. I knew what poor was from a young age. The year before our move we had a secret Santa who dropped off a couple of black hefty bags full of goodies including a Candy Land board game and some Fluff marshmallow spread. I knew what it was to want things that you knew you couldn’t have.

Eventually though the relationship between my mother and Frank started to deteriorate. There were some mamma drama moments. One time my mother ran over our bicycles. Mind you she wasn’t mad at her kids….she ran the bikes over to piss off Frank. The bikes were a gift from his sister and somehow destroying them seemed like a good get-even plan to her. I’m going to assume alcohol was involved in that thought process. She wasn’t the only one who was nuts. I remember seeing Frank drag my mother across the carpet and I was screaming at him to stop hurting her. To her credit she tried to tell me it was OK and that they were having fun. The rug burns told another story.

At some point my mother started to plan our escape. Apparently it was a two part plan. Sometime in the beginning of June she left Florida and took a bus to New Jersey with my brother. She left me behind. Let that sink in a minute…..she left her just turned 9 year old daughter in Florida with a family we knew for maybe two months. The family I stayed with moved into the second house we rented in Newport Richey so at least the house was familiar. The memories are fuzzy but there were at least two daughters and they taught me how to stuff oranges in my shirt to make it look like I had boobs. I also tried smoking and had my first kiss with an Australian boy. What can I say he had me a “‘owdy mate”. it was a hell of a month.Featured image

Somewhere close to July my mom came back to Florida and I went back to living in the mobile home with her and Frank. Within in days my mother went off the deep end and wound up in a Psych Ward. My brother was still in New Jersey and I landed in an emergency foster home. I don’t remember much from my time there I think I was only there about 5 days. The woman who picked me up to take me there told me I had nice eyelashes. That was almost 40 years ago and I remember that simple compliment. I also remember there were other kids there. Some were the foster parents biological kids, others were transients like me. We drank powdered milk which was gross and the dad was a cabinet maker. They liked to watch Little House on the Prairie. I was there for the 4th of July, we watched the fireworks on tv. I also remember it being 7/7/77 while I was there. I was told at the time that it was a special date. It didn’t feel special but it was memorable.

To be continued……https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/10/22/keep-on-truckin-part-4/

Keep on Truckin’……..Part 2

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Keep on Truckin’……..Part 2

There were a few incidents that I remember from before our trek to Florida that made me think my mom had some problems. There were fights with my father. I remember he got physically violent with her once. I swear I was crawling at the time and people say you can’t remember that far back but I can picture it. Had to be under 2 years old. I remember seeing my father hit my mom across her face as she slid down with her back against the wall. I also remember the verbal assault when my mom was screaming at my stepmother outside of the house where she lived with my father.What a tricky situation for a kid. Three people I adored and my mom was out of her mind, most likely drunk and making a scene on a block where we knew everyone.

Then there was the night when were couldn’t have been more than 5 years old. Our mom woke us up in the middle of the night, she had a bandage on her chin. She told us that she was in a car accident and she just wanted to hug and kiss us. I later found out that she was driving drunk. The cops let her off because it was the 70s and she was pretty. So, drunk driver turned into driver swerved to avoid hitting an animal.

There were of course the family holidays which were an excuse for the adults to get wasted. That always guaranteed some level of dysfunction. I learned at an early age that topics of religion and politics were fine because if they focused on that they left the kids alone. When they tired of those topics the kids became targets. I was smart, kept my mouth shut and generally stayed under the radar….the ones that stood up for themselves got the most abuse. I learned how to blend in like a chameleon.

During our send off/8th birthday party the drunkenness was at expert level. A few people stayed over in our small apartment because they passed out. I shared a bed with one of those. Her name was Eleanore and I adored her. We met Eleanore and her husband Frank when we lived at a boarding house in Point Pleasant Beach. We had one room for the three of us and they had an efficiency which was basically the penthouse in that place. They were kind to us and were very close friends of ours. Anyhow, I woke up the day after the party and the bed was wet. I was mortified. How could I have wet the bed……..wait a minute….I realized my underwear was dry though the sheets next to me were wet. Took my 8 year old brain a minute to realize Eleanore had wet the bed.

Shortly after that party we found ourselves in Florida with my mother’s boyfriend Frank. He was an inventor and he was working on a product that would conserve water in toilets. Sounds boring but the guy was so damn charming, I was in love. We were in Florida for about two weeks when I made the conscience decision to be an adult. Not sure what made me take that mental step. I’m sure I heard bits and pieces of conversations and somehow decided that was the best way to help out.

So I started that day. The four of were living in a Quality Inn hotel room and I started my adulthood by cleaning out the coffee pot. I was going to be a responsible citizen from that point on. Sure enough that year I started to cook family meals, vacuum and do my own laundry. I adored my mother at this point and I wanted desperately to please her. I’m sure that is why I went into adult mode. The adults probably thought it was cute at first and then they realized not so bad this kid can get shit done.

Aside from the Quality Inn we lived in three different houses and went to two different schools. We were in 3rd grade that year. The first house was next to a Drive In Movie Theater…..guess who saw JAWS on the big screen from outside of our house. I’m not going to lie that movie messed me up. We also had a coral snake in our shed once which freaked me out. This house was a bit of a dump if the proximity to a drive in and the snake didn’t already give that away.

The second house was a huge upgrade. We had a lot that went from one street to another. We were near a park and had an orange tree in our yard. We were so complacent we even got a dog. He was a German Shepherd, we named him Duke. My brother and I each had our own room. It was a 4 bedroom house which to me was palatial. I had the chicken pox in that house. I remember taking an oatmeal bath in the brown bathroom. We had a snake in that house once, our cat coaxed it out of hiding and then a neighbor stepped in to finish the job. Did I mention that I really hate snakes?

The third house we lived in was actually a mobile home. For those that are familiar,  it was a double wide which pretty much means what it says. It was a very nice mobile home with new carpeting and I remember I had white furniture in my bedroom. My brother and I had a Jack and Jill bathroom that we shared. Hard to imagine but the downward spiral went quick after we moved in.

To be continued……https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/10/20/keep-on-truckin-part-3/

Keep on Truckin’……..Part 1

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Keep on Truckin’……..Part 1

When I was a little girl I adored my mother. I suppose that is normal, little girls look up to their moms….miss them when they go away for an hour or a weekend or a month. I remember when I was in kindergarten we made plaster hand plagues as mothers day gifts. Mine was a pink circle with a small white plaster hand imprint in the center. I was so excited about giving her that gift that I spilled the beans about it before mothers day.

She was so pretty. Stylish short blonde hair, gorgeous blue eyes and a petite figure. She would go out sometimes so she dressed nice and did her make up. She was young, pretty and divorced in the 70s so she went out. She also worked as a cocktail waitress at a couple of popular Jersey Shore bars and she had a great uniform for that. One of her cocktail waitress uniforms was a block style mini dress with alternating black and white blocks she wore high white boots with it…..I can still picture that dress hanging on the bathroom door in our apartment on Beaver Dam Road in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.

I can remember her making things fun when we were young. We moved a lot probably due to a combination of equal parts financial hardships and poor decisions. She always made it feel like an adventure. I remember there was a poster in the living room in the place we called “the shack” it was an old guy walking down the road with “Keep on Truckin'” across the top. I remember listening to music – Neil Sedaka, The Rolling Stones, Diana Ross even some Janice Joplin. She read to us at night – Horton the Elephant by Dr. Seuss that was our favorite and she must have read it a thousand times. She was patient, pretty, cool and fun. That’s the mom I miss.

I can pretty much pin point the day that I realized she was in over her head. I was eight years old. We had just traveled from New Jersey to Florida and we were temporarily staying at a Quality Inn. It had a pool and there were little lizards all over the place so basically a kid paradise. But underneath I knew things were f*cked up.

We left the state of New Jersey soon after my twin brother and I turned 8. There was a big party….I think it was promoted as an 8th birthday party for the “twins”. But it was more of a drunken debauchery send off for my mom and I suppose us. My mother had recently won full custody of my brother and I. My father and step mother tried to get us to live with them but they lost in court. So my mom wanted to celebrate by moving us to Florida with her then boyfriend, Frank, who was an inventor and could easily sell ice to an Eskimo.

We drove to Florida in a convertible Cadillac and when we crossed the state line there was a huge sign that read “Welcome to Florida, the Sunshine State.” Even then I appreciated the irony or perhaps it was foreshadowing, it was raining like hell.

To be continued…….https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/10/17/keep-on-truckin-part-2/

Their Stories…Tales of a Hospice Volunteer

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Their Stories…Tales of a Hospice Volunteer

I have heard so many stories from the people that I have met as a hospice volunteer. I meet others through a small business that I run where I fill in the gaps for people when they need help. I have met some interesting people along the way. People always have a personal reason for becoming a hospice volunteer. It isn’t the PTA, you don’t do it for your kids.

I became interested in hospice in my late 20s. My aunt was dying of metastatic breast cancer and she appointed me as executrix of her estate. It was an incredible experience because my aunt was a highly spiritual and deeply religious woman. She was young, not even 60 and she met death face on with a grace and dignity that eludes me on a daily basis. We had many open discussions during her final year and it made me wonder what it was like to know you were dying within days, weeks or months? I started to worry that the dying person may not have anyone they felt they could talk to….sometimes the people closest to us are the hardest ones to talk to when life is near the end.

Some people are so close to the dying person that it is too emotionally charged for them to have a coherent conversation. Then again, some can’t communicate when things are great. Toss in a terminal illness and some just go mute or into complete denial. The surviving family and friends generally have people to talk to but the dying person….who do they have? I decided that I wanted to be that person.

So finally 10 years after the seed was planted I decided to become a hospice volunteer through a local hospital. My kids were still young but the preschool hours and some kind friends provided enough kid free time for me to attend the Medicare required training. I had been a stay at home mom for 5 years at this point and it was great to check off a personal goal that was independent of my family.

The hospital I volunteer for has a training coordinator we will call her Kay. When a hospice volunteer is requested, Kay sends out an email to a group of hospice volunteers telling us a little bit about the situation and what day/time a volunteer is needed. Then a volunteer will ‘reply all’ that they can do it and Kay sends a secure email to that individual. The volunteer then has the information to contact the family and the visit is scheduled. Sadly we always have to check in the day of the visit to make sure the patient hasn’t passed, it happens.

A couple of years ago I received such a call from the wife of a man that I was supposed to stay with the next day. Sadly her husband had passed a few hours before she called me. I find it remarkable that she would have the presence of mind to even think of me but she did. We chatted for a few minutes and she mentioned that she lied to her daughter and told her that a friend was staying with her that night because she did not want to inconvenience her. I never met that woman in person but I think of her often.

That’s how it is with hospice work. You meet people at this most intense time in their life. Sometimes it is scary and awkward and uncomfortable and other times it is filled with grace, dignity and love. You never know what you are walking into when you arrive at someone’s home. Sometimes the family is close and open and other times you can feel tension in the air from countless family fights and relatives being forced in a room with someone they haven’t spoken to in decades. I go in knowing that these people have an entire lifetime of memories, emotions and conflicts and I am not there to try to sort that out. I am there for two reasons: to be there for the patient in whatever capacity they need and to give the caregiver a break.

They, the patients, always leave me behind at some point. Sometimes they hang on well past the point that anyone would have thought they could. Other times they go suddenly….even though they were on hospice, you are shocked….they were a fighter and you thought you had more time. Most of the time though I know when our last visit has occurred. More times than not, I will get an extra squeeze of their hand, a knowing look and an extra and most sincere thank you. And I leave knowing I will not see them again.

Though they are gone, they are not forgotten. Many tell me their stories some are funny, others are heart breaking and I hold onto those stories and take them with me. That is our gift to each other.